Dr. Colleen Cummings, studying the skeletal ancestry in the roman necropolis of Sanisera

Colleen Cummings in one of the laboratories of the Sanisera Field school

Colleen Cummings in one of the laboratories of the Sanisera Field school

Colleen Cummings is from Seattle (USA), has a doctorate in Archaeological Science at the University of Oxford, and she is currently teaching Anthropology and Archaeology in the United States. She came to Menorca to continue with her studies about the background of individuals, analyzing some of the human remains found in the necropolis of Sanisera.

 

This pilot study grew out of an interest in researching the populational history of the island of Menorca. At different points in history, the island has been under the control of different external forces – the Punics, the Romans, the Vandals, the Islamic Empire, etc. However, it doesn’t seem to be clear whether these periods of control were accompanied by a large movement of these groups of people to the island and a resettlement of it, or if a select few individuals came to the island to establish control, but otherwise left the original population largely intact. The necropolis at Sanisera, dating from the 4th to 6th centuries CE, during the height of prosperity of the city under the Vandals, provides an opportunity to examine the physical characteristics of the people from this site. By doing so it is hoped that we can determine whether the population was homogenous or a mixed group, and through comparisons to Menorcan sites from different time periods as well as other sites around the Mediterranean, identify the ancestry of these people.

 

 

Some of the mandibles studied at the Sanisera laboratory

Some of the mandibles studied at the Sanisera laboratory

In order to do this, metric and non-metric traits of the cranial and post cranial skeletons will need to be analyzed to create a data set that can be compared to other populations as well as international databases. In this first instance, for this pilot study, only mandibles were used for analysis as there were mandibles available on hand from both Necropolis 6 and Necropolis 4 which did not require calling up materials from the museum. As a staunch bone, the mandible survives fairly well in this population, even in situations where the cranium might be highly fragmented. So far, measurements have been made on 27 mandibles from the two different necropolis areas, from both males and females representing a range of different ages. The results have yet to be fully analyzed, but there does seem to be some variation in mandibular ramus shape falling into two groups – those with a sharp angle, and those that have a more sloping shape.

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